ENUGU, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA)- The All Progressives Congress (APC) has asked the presidential election tribunals to dismiss petitions filed by three opposition parties challenging the victory of its candidate, President-elect Bola Tinubu, in the last election.
The Action Alliance (AA), Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and Action People’s Party (APP) had, in separate petitions, challenged the emergence of Mr. Tinubu as President-elect.
The APC urged the tribunal to discountenance the petitions in three separate responses filed at the secretariat of the presidential election petitions court Sunday night by Thomas Ojo, a member of the party’s legal team led by Lateef Fagbemi in Abuja.
AA, in the petition, sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC, Mr. Tinubu and Hamza Al-Mustapha, its factional presidential candidate.
APM, in its petition, joined INEC, APC, Mr. Tinubu, Kashim Shettima and Kabir Masari, who stood as a vice-presidential placeholder during the primary before he was substituted with Mr. Shettima.
APP filed a petition against Mr. Tinubu, APC and INEC to court as first to third respondents, respectively.
In the suits, marked CA/PEPC/01/2023, CA/PEPC/04/2023, and CA/PEPC/02/2023, AA and its presidential candidate, APM and APP are respectively challenging the outcome of the presidential election on the grounds of alleged substantial non-compliance with the electoral laws as well as the INEC guidelines.
While the AA claimed that its candidate, Solomon-David Okanigbuan, was excluded from the presidential poll, based on which the election should be voided, the APM is contending that Mr. Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election on the grounds of the alleged double nomination of Mr. Shettima.
APM also questions Mr. Tinubu’s candidacy on the grounds of substituting the initial placeholder, Kabir Masari, with Mr. Shettima.
The APP claimed that Mr. Tinubu, at the time of the election, was not qualified to contest the poll because of sections 131(c) and 142 of the Constitution and section 35 of the Electoral Act 2022.
APC stated that contrary to AA’s claim, Mr. Tinubu: “was duly elected and returned as the President-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having won the majority of lawful votes cast in the said election devoid of corrupt practices or vices and in substantial compliance with the provisions of Electoral Act 2022 (as amended).”
It argued that the ground on which the AA brought its petition: “is not meritorious and facts in support of same are not availing to validate the petitioners’ claims and/or purported right to present the instant petition.”
The APC added that Mr. Okanigbuan, listed as the second petitioner “is not the first petitioner’s AA’s validly nominated and sponsored candidate to contest the presidential elections held on February 25.”
APC also argued that as against the AA’s claim, INEC (listed as the 1st respondent) did not unlawfully exclude Mr. Okanigbuan’s name because he was never the lawfully nominated and sponsored candidate of the petitioner, which did not submit his name to INEC as its candidate for the election.
It added that there is no evidence that the AA conducted a valid primary from which Mr. Okanigbuan emerged as a candidate, noting that Mr. Al-Mustapha was the actual candidate of the AA, who INEC recognized.
The APC stated that Mr. Okanigbuan was not nominated and sponsored by the AA as its candidate to contest the presidential elections, adding that the party “was not and could not have been excluded from the election as it participated in the presidential election with the fourth respondent (Mr Al-Mustapha) as its candidate” who participated in the election and scored 14,542 votes.
In its notice of preliminary objection, the APC questioned the competence of the petition, noting that it was based solely on pre-election issues.
It said: “For an election petition to be competent, it must complain against the return and/or election of the winner of the disputed election. The instant petition is neither challenging and/or questioning the election of the seconnd and/or third respondent (APC/Tinubu). The petition as presently constituted amounts to a pre-election matter of nomination and sponsorship of candidate(s).”
The party added: “The crux of the petition being the nomination and sponsorship of the 1st petitioner’s candidate is statute-barred, having not been commenced within the mandatory 14 days provided for under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. Issues of nomination, sponsorship and exclusion of candidates for an election are issues that precede the conduct of an election and are pre-election matters that cannot be raised or canvased before an election tribunal.”
It reasoned that facts in support of the petition speak to intra-party issues, pre-election disputes and administrative actions of INEC “triable by Federal High Court under Section 285 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as altered by the fourth Alteration Act and outside the original jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal being a Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.”
The APC asked the tribunal to dismiss APM’s petition.
The party, in its preliminary objection equally filed on Sunday, argued that “the petitioner (APM) alone in the absence of its sponsored candidate cannot benefit and did not have any special interest in the election or return of the third respondent (Tinubu) as the winner of the election.”
The APC queried the legal capacity of the party to challenge the mode it adopted in nominating its candidate, arguing that since the APM was not a party member, it did not know “how it becomes the petitioner’s business how it nominates its candidates.
“The petitioner does not fall under the category of persons that can challenge the internal working operation of the second respondent (APC) regarding the nomination and sponsorship of the second respondent’s candidates for the election.”
The APC equally faulted the competence of the petition by the APP, arguing that the grounds on which it was founded were not sustainable. It described the petition as frivolous and an attempt to waste the court’s time.
The presidential candidates of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s counterpart, Atiku Abubakar, are also contesting the election.